Saturday, 16 November 2013

Captain Phillips and Thor: The Dark World, 2013

Last week, I saw these two new films over two evenings. They were both worth going to the theatre. While there is no comparison between the real-life story of a merchant navy captain kidnapped by Somali pirates and that of the hammer-wielding Norse god who must protect the universe from annihilation, I preferred Captain Phillips over Thor: The Dark World.

Captain Phillips is not exactly a suspense film but it had me on the edge of my seat from the time Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) of the Maersk Alabama spots, through a pair of binoculars, a small group of armed men pursuing the mighty US freighter in their tiny boats. He has just read an email warning him of pirates in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Somalia and along the Horn of Africa, and so he knows who they are and what they are capable of. 

Over the next gruelling one hour director Paul Greengrass (United 93) yanks you out of your seat and puts you first on the bridge of the Alabama and then inside the cramped lifeboat, in the midst of the weed-chewing skeletal pirates and their hostage, Captain Phillips. There is no escape for captain courageous or you.

The real Captain Phillips and
the book he wrote.
I’d like to think of the film—based on the real Captain Richard Phillips who captained Maersk Alabama in 2009 and was actually taken hostage—as an action-adventure documentary that chronicles the harrowing experience of the captain and his rescue by navy seals. Incidentally, the Alabama was the first US cargo ship to be held hostage by Somali pirates in America’s 200-year old history.

Take Tom Hanks out of the film and you could actually be watching a plain documentary. Towards the end of the film the bearded Hanks, somewhat, reprises the role of Chuck Noland, the screaming and mentally-wrecked survivor in Cast Away (2000), admirably, as he realises the full import of his rescue and gives in to his bottled-up emotions. Until then, the captain is a picture of grace under pressure. 

Muse (Barkhad Abdi) and Bilal (Barkhad Abdirahman), as two of the four Somali pirates, are superb if scary as hell. They could give local gangsters a run for their casino money.

Captain Phillips is a different kind of film: just one top-billed actor, a whole lot of minor actors, and a stripped-down script. The enactment of Somali piracy is true to life. It's the most engrossing film I've seen so far in 2013.

I also liked Thor: The Dark World, directed by Alan Taylor (The Sopranos, and Terminator, 2015) on three main counts: the special effects-induced Asgard, the abode of the Norse gods and the illuminated journey through intergalactic space; Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the animated and adoptive brother who envies and hates Thor, and is set to make a comeback in the third installment; and Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), the Spock-like leader of the Dark Elves race who wants to repossess Aether, the ultimate space weapon that will enable him to destroy the universe.

Oh, and Stellan Skarsgård runs naked around Stonehenge with cops in hot pursuit. What was that all about? And before I forget, Chris Helmsworth as the hammer-wielding Thor and Natalie Portman as the Aether-possessed Jane Foster put in a fine performance.

I’d have understood Thor better if an astrophysicist were sitting next to me and explaining all about the forces of gravity that make Thor look like a bouncing ball.

The film that I’m looking forward to seeing is Last Vegas (2013), a comedy about four sixty-plus childhood friends—Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, and Morgan Freeman—who go to Las Vegas on a fun-trip. While Kline is a very good actor, I’d have preferred Jack Nicholson. 

17 comments:

  1. Lana and I watched Stand up Guys last night, with two older actors, Pacino and Walken in it. They did wonderfully and I much enjoyed it.

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    1. Charles, I haven't seen STAND UP GUYS. Watching Pacino and Walken together must have been a treat. It's a film I look forward to seeing.

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  2. I enjoyed Thor 2. It was a fun movie and way better than the first one. I like the interconnectedness of the Marvel universe as a whole and with Captain America making a brief and hilarious appearance as well.

    I need to watch Captain Phillips but I think I'll wait to rent that one. IDK. I just think some movies need to be watched in theatres (big action films with losts of special effects) while others can be watched quietly viewed at home without the crowds. Thanks for the write up.

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    1. Keishon, you're welcome. I agree, THOR 2 is better than THOR 1, the storyline having more elements than the first. Loki's ability to transmogrify, as Captain America, was funny. Transmogrification seems to be catching up since the Harry Potter books and movies. You're right about Marvel casting its superheroes together in one film or the other, and I'd like nothing better than to see Marvel and DC coming together and unleashing their combined forces on the big screen. They've already done it in the comics. Marvels' Avengers and DC's JLA fighting against the forces of evil — now that wouldn't take a lot of imagination.

      CAPTAIN PHILLIPS ought to be seen in the cinema hall. It's going to bag some awards next year.

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    2. Hmmm I'll take that into consideration re Captain Phillips. Can you imagine the revenue The Avengers 2 will generate when it hits theatres in 2015? Marvel fully invests in their feature films and I like how they are doing it, too. DC and Marvel teaming up for a movie would be spectacular. I'm sure someone is working on that.

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    3. I hope so too, Keishon. I'm waiting for THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON too. It has the same cast as the first with the rumoured inclusion of Anthony Mackie as The Falcon who paired well with Captain America in the comics. The ultimate superhero clash would be Marvel's Hulk vs DC's The Thing, as in the comic-books, and I hope someone brings them together on screen.

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  3. Prashant, both of these sound good. We never see movies in the theater because we have no theaters where it is a good experience. Not to mention the price, which I would rather spend on books. I too am looking forward to Last Vegas, and Stand UP Guys mentioned above sounds good too.

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    1. Tracy, both are very good films. The prices in cinema halls in India are pretty reasonable: Rs.80-100 (under $2) for a matinee or morning show, Rs.150-200 ($3) for all other shows on weekdays, and a dollar more on weekends. We go to the theatres only on weekdays, being working days we get good seats. Most of our theatres are part of multiplexes which are part of huge malls. Unlike in the West, we also get to pick our seats depending on their availability. The seats are printed alphabetically and numerically on the tickets, such as F-14-15, indicating 'F' row, seat numbers 14 & 15. The food inside the theatres is expensive and is often not worth the price. You're not allowed to bring outside foodstuffs which is confiscated at the entrance and returned when you leave.

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    2. Those prices do sound OK, and the theatres sound nice. Under those conditions, I would love to see some movies on the big screen. I would skip the food, though.

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  4. If you get a chance, see the Danish hijacking film called THE HIJACKING. A different story and handled differently but a lot of the same strengths.

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    1. Patti, I think I've heard of THE HIJACKING but I'll make it a point to see it. Thanks for mentioning it. It's a subject that can be, and in fact has been, handled in different ways.

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  5. Glad you enjoyed both. Captain Phillips was excellent. I can probably wait to catch the others.

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    1. Col, I think if the film wins an Oscar or a Golden Globe, it'll be mainly on account of Tom Hanks who deserves either or both. THOR 2 should be seen in the theatre.

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  6. I thoroughly enjoyed the first THOR movie so am looking forward to seeing this one - and I I am a huge Paul Greengrass fan and his feverish semi-documentary style so hope to see both of these soon - you're way ahead of me Prashant so I am may come bacl and comment once I've caight up with you chum!

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    1. Sergio, I don't go to the theatre often except to watch some good films like the ones above and superhero and animated movies. I agree, THOR 1 was good and it was partly due to Loki (Tony Hiddleston) who has many fans in India. Once again, he has a superior role in THOR 2 upstaging the Norse god in the end. I'd like to know what you think of the films reviewed here.

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  7. The best thing I like about Thor is that he can get pretty much anything he wants.
    recommandedmovies

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    1. Daniel, thanks for writing. I agree but then Thor is a god although he has Loki, another god to contend with, and Loki is at times more than his equal.

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